Many scientific studies, including research by renowned psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, have found that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional well-being and physical health than those who don’t. In comparison with control groups, those who cultivated a grateful outlook experienced the following effects:
- Felt better about their lives as a whole
Experienced greater levels of joy and happiness
Felt optimistic about the future
Got sick less often
Exercised more regularly
Had more energy, enthusiasm, determination, and focus
Made greater progress toward achieving important personal goals
Slept better and awoke feeling refreshed
Felt stronger during trying times
Enjoyed closer family ties
Were more likely to help others and offer emotional support
Experienced fewer symptoms of stress
Sounds great, right! Absolutely. Yet, gratitude is not an attitude in our minds. It is a feeling. It resonates within the physical body, rising from the recognition of love, goodness, and of grace. Given that, what are practices we can cultivate to experience gratitude? See if any of the following suggestions resonate with you.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Write down what you’re thankful for. One option is to simply write 3 things you are grateful for (from others or in general) and 3 things that you are grateful for from yourself. This is a great practice for self-love and self-acknowledgment. Another option is to write daily: Who or what inspired me today? What brought me happiness today? What brought me comfort and deep peace today?
Handwritten Thank You Letters
Make a list of at least five people who have had a profound impact on your life. Choose one and write a thank you letter expressing gratitude for all the gifts you’ve received from that person. While we may often thank people verbally, the written word can often be even more powerful because someone has taken the time to write their appreciation. A letter can also be re-read and treasured, creating joy and love that will continue to ripple out into the Universe.
You can connect to the power of gratitude through walking and being present. Begin with your intention to focus on what you are thankful for. Take a few deep breaths before you walk. Look around, get present and begin walking.
As you walk, consider the many things for which you are grateful. These might be nurturing relationships, material comforts, the body that allows you to experience the world, the mind that allows you to really understand yourself, or your essential spiritual nature. Breathe, pause, and be grateful for the air that is filling your lungs and making your life possible. Pay attention to your senses – everything you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and maybe even tasting. See how many things you can find to feel grateful for. This is a powerful way to shift your mood and open to the flow of abundance that always surrounds you.
Whether the practices mention are for you, the guidance is to create a gratitude practice that supports and nourishes you. If you find yourself needing a little help with this, consider a Spiritual Mentoring Session